How to Describe Sound

How to Describe Sound

  • 13 Nov 0

SoundwavesIt is a common practice, especially within the audiophile community, to do plenty of research before buying audio products like players, preamps and amps. Rightfully so, because these products can cost a pretty penny, and a lot of their appeal comes from personal preference, so they should be tested before they are bought.

Earphones and speakers, although not necessarily the most expensive part of a sound rig, might be the hardest part of the rig to choose, and this is especially true for earphones.

One part of the problem with earphones is that, of course, the sound they reproduce is greatly influenced by the structure of the ears of person using them. The second part is that the quality of sound is very hard to describe using measurements that most manufacturers list on the product packaging. This has led audiophiles to turn to language to describe the quality of the sound, and anyone turning to headphone reviews for a direction in which to look for the model they might like should know at least some of the commonly used terms. The full list would of course be more extensive, but this one should cover some of the commonly used and not commonly known terms.

Articulation is a term used to describe the ability of headphones to reproduce very fine details accurately, and the better the articulation, the better the quality of the headphones. Similarly, the term “articulate” is used to describe headphones which are able to reproduce precisely defined elements like vocals and instruments.

Just as articulation and articulate are used to describe two distinct things, so are clarity and clear. Clarity is used to describe the lack of muddiness and fuzziness in the reproduced sound, while clear headphones reproduce the sound as if they weren’t even there or were transparent.

Balance is an important term that describes the ability of headphone to reproduce all frequencies within its range without emphasis on certain frequencies. Well balanced headphones are easy to listen for a long time without getting fatigued. Balance can also refer to channel balance, or how well the right and left channels’ levels are balanced.

When the headphones add some characteristics to the sound they are reproducing that were not present in the recording process, it is called coloration, and it’s not a very desirable trait. One of the reasons behind coloration is sound decay, which is another important term which refers to the inability of the headphones to stop or shorten the gradual fadeout of a sound.

Headphones which are able to play very loud sound and very soft sounds have good dynamics, but dynamic is also a type of headphone speaker. If headphones reproduce a well-balanced sound with equal instrumental reproduction, the sound they make is called full. Smooth sound is not at all harsh, it’s easy to listen and has a flat frequency response in the middle. A warm sound is similar to full sound, as it needs precise reproduction of bass and full and harmonious reproduction of high frequencies.

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